Parenting Debate: Sleepovers or No Sleepovers?
Eight grade three boys lay in sleeping bags, giggling and fidgeting in my basement. It was almost midnight and I started to get annoyed. Finally, they fell asleep, only to wake us with their shouting at 6 am.
And that is a typical sleepover (sleepunder?) birthday party. It smells like sweaty socks, popcorn and restless, sleep-deprived kids.
But for two of those boys it was the first time they had slept away from their parents. When they were being dropped off, the kids were super excited -- the parents, however, were so nervous you would think they were going away for three weeks to the Arctic Circle.
My kids have been to lots of sleepovers and we have hosted lots as well. When a friend sleeps at our house, we make them a treasured part of our family. We become the perfect TV-version of ourselves - nice dinners, kid-friendly movies and lots of kind, gentle conversation. Having another child for a night is a great way to get to know your kids' friends. A child becomes much more multi-faceted when you see them with bedhead, searching for something to eat in the morning.
And I expect the same when my kids sleep at their friends' house. A sleepover is a chance to see how another family operates and gives a child a chance to feel a independent in a safe place. They learn flexibility and, according to this expert, a sleepover enhances their emotional intelligence. It is also a good lesson for parents in letting go.
And as a mother of three, it's also nice to mix up the dynamic slightly and have only two kids at home.
I'm lucky because both sets of grandparents and my sister live in the same city and my kids have been sleeping out since they were little. They pack their overnight bag themselves and off they go. So I am always surprised when a kid has never had a chance to stay up late and get spoiled for a night.
I don't believe in bubble-wrapping my kids or, as Lenore Skenazy says, "glue-gunning them" to my side. I look at sleepovers on a case-by-case basis and ask myself (and my husband) a few questions:
- Is the child ready?
- Am I ready to deal with an exhausted, cranky child for a day?
- Do I know and trust the parents? (Most importantly)
There have been lots of times I have said no, and there are a few houses that I will not allow my kids to stay overnight at because I'm not comfortable with their routines.
When my sons' friends got dropped at my house, I could see that the kids were ready, but the parents were having a hard time letting go. I made sure that the newbies got a little extra care but they were fine - exuberant even. When they got picked up, I apologized profusely for the lack of sleep and possible grumpy day. I was just glad that it was a Friday night party, so that by Monday the ill-effects of the sleepover would be forgotten before I ran into anyone in the schoolyard.
I think of sleepovers as a rite-of-passage that also teach my kids that they can handle themselves without me around. And they can have fun doing it. But do you allow sleepovers? What age is a good age to start?
Want more chaos? Last year, I asked how old is too old for a pacifier? (Looking at you, Suri Cruise)